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Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

Monthly Archives: August 2011

Faux Word of the Day actually started out as a joke between me and myself, a pretty standard communication these days.  Since I only had one faux word at the time (punintentional), the idea was that the series would be a one-parter:  One word.  One day.  One joke.

The end.

But as with most things in my life, especially when it comes to jokes, I don’t know when to stop.  (That’s what she said.)  And so, shortly thereafter, we learned about:

And now, here we are with the latest edition: expertease.

expertease (ex-per-teez)

the condition of having  a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area such that the depth of understanding inadvertently but severely degrades the individual’s ability to enjoy reasonably sufficient goods or services.

For example: “Ever since I spent that semester in Scotland surrounded by 30-year single malts, I can’t even bring myself to take a sip of Johnny Walker Black.  What an expertease.”

Expertease is a bit of conundrum.

Essentially, the more educated or experienced you are in certain areas of life, the less able you are to extract happiness from situations that draw upon that knowledge.

Education of course can (and should!) prevent you from continuing to make horrible choices, like the first time I tried a microbrew (Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale, I believe) and decided that Keystone Light just wasn’t going to cut it anymore.  But at a certain point, you suddenly find yourself so keenly aware and your tastes so refined that you are no longer willing to accept objectively average or even slightly-above-average product.

Basically, when you hit the point of expertease, your knowledge becomes so great that that you…

  1. are no longer able to enjoy a reasonably acceptable class of product that was once a source of pleasure
  2. find yourself spending more money and/or time in order to meet your newfound, pinkie-out high standards
  3. become completely insufferable and impossible to hang out

For your sake and the sake of those around you, be wary of expertease!

Confucius once said,

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”

I have a feeling Confucius spent a ton of money on fancy scotch.

As someone who has only recently begun to acknowledge that on the Venn Diagram of Life, I am officially outside the oblong spheroid that reads “The Next Generation.”  One of the few benefits of this unfortunate realization is that it is finally acceptable — and encouraged! — that I begin sentences with the phrase, “In my day…”

Kids these days — with their texting machines, Jersey Shores, and Justin Beibers — can you believe them?  No, you can’t!  You can’t believe them at all.  Someone has to set this babyfaced group of ungrateful whippersnappers straight.  And that someone is me, at least for right now, until I get distracted by some YouTube video of two otters holding hands or something.

I guess I’m not that far removed from these 21st century digital kids, you know.


A lot has changed in Internetland since the reality of online chat first slapped me across the face in the mid 1990’s — mostly for the better.  The population of Internet users has grown — quite literally — exponentially.  The number of legitimate resources, for reference and entertainment, is essentially — though not literally — infinite.  We are no longer at the mercy of our analogue phone lines.  These are all enormous steps in a positive direction.

Almost everything about the Internet that could have been improved has been improved.

That said…

In my day, we had more than just ‘BRB’!

And we liked it that way!

Really, we did.  It was a lot better.

Paul Simon is pretty adamant that there are 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, but there are also a number of ways to leave your computer in the midst of an online chatting session.  “BRB” is just the tip of the not-here iceberg, yet it has become the default, the gold standard for every situation, regardless of circumstance.

It didn’t used to be this way.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Just slip out the back, Jack.

Here’s how we used to do it, in the Good Ol’ Days, back when New York Times editors insisted on modifying the word “Internet” with “a series of interconnected computers.”

BRB / “be right back”

BRB actually means something very specific!  It means “be right back.”  Period.  If you are not going to “be right back,” then you should not use BRB.  If you’re going to the bathroom, you will BRB (unless, well, you know).  If you’re getting coffee from the break room, BRB is appropriate. But if you are heading out to lunch, find a different string of letters.

My general rule of thumb is this: Use BRB if the task you are about to engage in is in the same building as the one you are currently inhabiting and will definitely be completed in 5 minutes or less.

Otherwise, here is a list of useful acronyms to choose from.

AFK / “away from keyboard”

Nowadays, when we say BRB, what we usually mean is AFK.  You use AFK when you intend — intentionally or otherwise — to be as vague as possible regarding the amount of time you will be unavailable.  This acronym is used for several reasons, but most often because the speaker (typer?) is unsure of the amount of time that s/he will be absent, or the conversation is over and the amount of time is irrelevant to the other party in the conversation.

If you are about to go help a cat out of a tree, you are AFK.  If you are a cat who is about to go up into a tree, you are also AFK.

BBIAB / “be back in a bit”

BBIAB, for my money (approx. $0), is the most underutilized going-away acronym.  Those of us who used this string of characters back in the day should strongly consider resurrecting it on a permanent basis.  When you type BBIAB, you are communicating to the listening (reading?) party that the amount of time between now, the leaving time, and once again being available to chat is going to be long, but possibly not so long that the current conversation should be considered “over.”

When the party you are communicating with claims BBIAB, feel free to temporarily remove yourself from the conversation.  Get up.  Have a glass of water.  Crank out a few more pages of that memoir you’ve been working on.  They’ll be back, but not soon enough that you should feel compelled to be an active member of the conversation.

BBL / “be back later”

BBL is as close as you can get to saying goodbye without typing T-T-Y-L.  The only thing that separates “be back later” from “talk to you later” is that the former suggests that the conversation currently taking place is not yet complete.  In other words, whereas TTYL means We’re done with this, BBL roughly translates to We’re done with this for now.


Unfortunately (Fortunately?), this whole discussion about which chatting acronyms are superior to or compatible with BRB will soon be moot.  Some would fairly argue that it already is moot.  The notion that you would feel compelled to communicate the idea that you are not available to be contacted via some form of digital chat already seems a bit antiquated.

We are slowly, for better or for worse, living our lives based on an overwhelming sense of omniavailability. We are available, always, and thus never feel as though we are “leaving” our conversations, even for a moment.

How can we BRB or even BBIAB if we are never really AFK?

Ain’t technology (and awkward folksy speech) grand?

Every so often, in the midst of an all-to-common daydream (the one where I am doing the opposite of whatever I am actually doing), I am comforted by how wonderful it is to live in a time when most of my otherwise fatal — or at the very least, highly destructive — flaws are muted by the tangible result of a long line of expertly developed technologies.

For example, I can’t spell, but what I can do is press F7 and notice red squiggly lines beneath my unintentionally-though-irresponsibly-lettered words!  My sense of direction is as developed as my extra sensory perception, but I have no trouble following the soothing, robotic instructions from that not-quite-British lady’s voice on a GPS.  I’m a terrible hunter (probably?), but man, these modern food delivery systems really make eating really, really simple!

Technology: quite grand, indeed.

And yet, as the years go by, as technologists continue to technologize technologizingly, there are folks who wish to turn back the clock — to the extent that we still physically “turn back” clocks, which we don’t, because clocks are digital now.  We have somehow gotten to the point where the phrase “turn back the clock” has evolved into an example of the days-of-yore notion it references. It’s pretty incredible, actually: a saying that hearkens back to the past is completely outdated.  So, as a general rule of thumb, the next time you wish to accuse someone of being a Luddite (Ludditity?), do not fist-poundingly declare that they wish “to turn back the clock” unless you are trying to score some serious irony points.

I digress.

(Really.  It’s what I do.)

(Also, I do a lot of typing in parenthesis.)

Anyway, back to the intersection between food delivery systems and technology.

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to suggest that the development of food preservation technologies radically changed the course of human history.  By storing and modifying foods in such a way as to increase their shelf-life, people were able to apportion time otherwise spent on fresh food prep for, well, pretty much anything else.  And that was a good thing, except when that “anything else” time was used for causing destruction and general mayhem.  Food preservation led to reduction of illness (though an increase in slicing-your-hand-open-on-jagged-can), extended life expectancy, and enabled complex communities to form by centralizing food production, which allowed people to focus on developing other socially useful skills (like clock-making!).

Preservatives changed the world!  For the better!

And yet, today, “preservative” is a bad word.  Preservatives are not to be trusted, consumed, or ever even purchased in the first place.  We are now inundated with reports that they will make you sick, ruin your local community, and even kill you in the long term!  In other words, the opposite of the actual history of food preservation.

Of course, there are good reasons for buying preservative-free food when preservation is not at the top of your list of concerns, but let’s cut these world-changers some slack.

So please, when you’re standing in line so you can pay twice as much for bread that will last 15% as long, just know that one of the primary reasons you’re able to make the choice to live a highbrow, organic lifestyle is due to the trail blazed by those pesky, icky preservatives you’re paying so much to avoid.

On the surface, adults don’t make any sense.

If you consider the overall behavior of any particular individual, it will seem rather, well, odd.  It seems improbable — no matter which personality traits/flaws develop — that a person would grow up to be any specific way.  The statistical chance that, at birth, you would end up like you, or that your frienemy would end up like your friemeny, round to zero.

No chance.

Statistically speaking, people are strange.

Only after you obtain perspective about the fundamental influences in a person’s life (e.g., learning about parents/upbringing, discussing traumatic or otherwise crucial life happenings, etc.) can you finally begin to understand an individual.  You begin to triangulate, and begin to see the person not as an irrational thing-doer, but rather as a series of (usually) reasonable-given-their-perspective reactions based on an amalgamation of past experiences.

In other words, context is everything.

For the most part, I think we are generally willing to accept the experiences-shape-personality theory, though it seems fair to say that we are less enticed by the concept when this lens is turned inward.  The idea that my behavior and social instincts may be based on something other than my innate, natural charm is a bit more disturbing than that same notion used to explain your lame story.

The reason I bring up all of this (nonsense?) is because I have recently started considering which, if any, creative influences have molded my writing style.  My first instinct — narcissism, as it turns out — immediately had me considering the notion that I am a perfectly distinct, creative snowflake, floating down from the heavens in my perfectly distinct creative snowflake-y way.


As it turns out, though I never had dreams (delusions?) of becoming a writer (I was more interested in having the largest Lego-slash-MicroMachine collection in the world), my writing style makes perfect sense when you consider the media that I was gleefully consuming at such a influential time.  That said, I can barely understand what drove me to these particular sources.

Keep in mind, I was a weird kid.

(But you were, too, probably.)

Erma Bombeck

I could be mistaken, but it’s entirely possible that the first book I ever read cover-to-cover was, at 11 years old, If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?  This book, published four years before I was born, inspired Art Buchwald to rave, “[Bombeck] has done it again–this time taking a hilarious swipe at husbands, honeymoons, tennis elbow, marriage, lettuce, the national anthem, and a host of other domestic dilemmas.”

What more could a prepubescent Zach ask for?

(I have no explanation for this.)

Tom Lehrer

If you asked me who my favorite musician was around the time when I was reading Erma Bombeck in the bathroom — circa 1995 — I would say, with a straight face,  “Tom Lehrer!”  Of course, I had no idea at the time that most of what I was listening to was recorded in the late 1950’s and 60’s.  And I really had no idea at the time about the history and social awareness required to understand even a fraction of what Lehrer was carrying (a tune) on about.

For those who are unaware of Lehrer’s work, he was a brilliant songwriter, mathematician, and political satirist.  (I say “was” even though he is still very much alive because, so far as I am aware, he is no longer engaged in any of the aforementioned activities.)

Lehrer’s tapes were always at arm’s length from the front passenger seat in my mom’s 1988 Volvo stationwagon, so there was some comfort provided as I was being whisked away to Sunday School.  Only in retrospect am I able to consume Lehrer’s work the way it was intended, although I clearly remember laughing at the appropriate parts as a young’n. But listening to his songs still give me a unfiltered feeling of joyous naivety, even if now I’m laughing for the right reasons.

Dave Barry

This one is the biggie, at least in terms of writing style.

My curiosity about Dave Barry peaked right about the same time that high-speed Internet meandered into my life.  Dave Barry’s page on the Miami Herald’s website was actally one of the first things I ever bookmarked (in Netscape, after searching for his name on AltaVista, probably).  Thanks to magic of the current Internet, we can take a ride in the WayBackMachine to see what his website looked around that time.  Reading Barry’s column became a routine, even though I was still pretty confident at the time that I “didn’t like to read.”

His writing was always fun and pointless.

Which kind of explains this place a bit.

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